Black Dog Days – I still have depression

It’s been 13 months since my last post. When I realised this, I initially thought “That’s because I’ve been feeling so crap.” That’s just not true though. I have been feeling crap, but not for 13 months. Not as bad as I currently do anyway.  If I’m totally honest, I don’t think my depression and anxiety ever really went away, but life’s been good and I’ve been symptom free.  I don’t think they ever will go away. This sounds like I’ve given up. Given up on ever being well again. I haven’t. I’m just starting to accept that I’ll always have to live with my mental illness.  Sometimes it’ll be well controlled and sometimes it won’t.

My mobility has been affected by my diabetes. Chieroarthropathy, foot pain, shoulder pain and pins and needles in my left hand after a failed carpal tunnel syndrome op. I used to run. I loved to run. I was never fantastic or about to run an ultr-marathon, but it was good for me.  It kept my weight under control. It made me sensitive to insulin. It was time on my own with my thoughts. It was my way of pounding the shit out of things that were stressing me or getting me down. Then there were the endorphins, oh those lovely endorphins. This has been affecting my mood for the last 3 or 4 years.

I found myself in a perfect storm of chronic pain, drugs for my physical symptoms making me feel dopey and thick headed and their interactions with my anti-depressant meds making me sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Something slipped.  I went from I’m ok. I can do this. To thinking I can’t do this anymore. I’m just not physically capable of doing everything I need to do in a day. I became more and more anxious about work. About being dad. About my relationship. About my ‘worsening’ health. About the future. About everything ad infinitum. Enter big black worst case scenarios around every corner.

This was the worst I’ve felt since 2003. I was having chest pain in the car on my way to work. I felt hopeless and started having suicidal thoughts. I’ve been there before and didn’t want to go back. I spoke to my partner about how bad I was feeling and made an appointment for my GP. I should have gone months before.  A quick review of my meds and a reassuringly thorough assessment of my symptoms and I left with new anti-depressants and a referral to the Primary Care Mental Health Team.

It’s been nearly 3 months since I first saw my GP and I’m slowly getting better.  Starting the new meds was tough, as were subsequent increases in dose. I couldn’t face anyone and answering my phone was a no-no. Thankfully I can see recovery coming.

Things that have helped:

  • Getting away. We had booked our holiday before this all came to a head, and it was great to just go away and not think about anything more than what we were having for lunch and where we would go the next day.
  • Anti-depressants. This should probably have been at the top of the list. I know they’re not for everyone but they definitely helped. Initially they made me feel flat. Flat isn’t great, but its way better than anxious, hopeless and crying at the drop of a hat.
  • Walking. I know some folk don’t agree about physical activity helping your mental health but I found it useful. Big walks and little ones. I’ve bagged a couple of Munro’s and a few sub 3,000 feet hills. The little ones have been mostly around where we live and have just been at times that I’ve felt agitated or just needed something to distract me.
  • Pokemon Go. On days when I really didn’t feel capable of doing anything with The Boy Pokemon Go was a lifesaver. Either walking or on our bikes if there were eggs to hatch. It was great to have something we could do together that didn’t need any prep or have any stress attached to it.
  • My bike.
  • Stop, breathe & think. My CPN recommended this fantastic little app to me. It asks you to input how you’re feeling when you open it up and then suggests guided meditations based on how you are at the time. Most of the meditations it has suggested for me are between 5 and 10 minutes. I’ve found it really helpful and a really quick way to calm myself down if I’m starting to feel anxious or agitated.
  • Cheer Up Love by Susan Calman. I bought this on Audiobook and there are some good tips and tricks in it.  It’s also entertaining.  After listening to it, I’ve stopped apologising to my partner when I’m having a meltdown and now thank him instead when he helps me out.
  • Social media (Twitter). Facebook has been unhelpful in equal measure and I’m seriously thinking of divorce. The #GBDOC has been good for sharing as there are a few of us who know that Diabetes and Depression often go hand in hand.Like all social media, it can have it’s moments, but they’re generally a good bunch and if someone has been out of order or inadvertently upset things they generally sort themselves out quickly.

I got a card from the guys at work the other day which said no matter how big the storm gets, the sun always comes out.  I’m glad to say it’s still a bit cloudy, but the storms on it’s way out.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming yourself, please speak to your GP or CPN. Tell a friend or relative how you are feeling.

Contact the Samaritans, free from any phone, on 116 123 (UK & ROI)

In Scotland you can contact NHS24 on 111 or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87

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